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The History of Henry Esmond, Esq.

William Makepeace Thackeray

Book Overview: 

A classic Victorian novel and a historical novel rolled into one! Read about court and army life during the reign of Queen Anne – a story of Catholic – Protestant intrigue, and the party which aspired to the restoration of Bonny Prince Charlie. And, a good love story as well.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .d, who was his tutor, and eight years his little lordship's senior, had hard work sometimes to keep his own temper, and hold his authority over his rebellious little chief and kinsman.

In a couple of years after that calamity had befallen which had robbed Lady Castlewood of a little—a very little—of her beauty, and her careless husband's heart (if the truth must be told, my lady had found not only that her reign was over, but that her successor was appointed, a Princess of a noble house in Drury Lane somewhere, who was installed and visited by my lord at the town eight miles off—pudet haec opprobria dicere nobis)—a great change had taken place in her mind, which, by struggles only known to herself, at least never mentioned to any one, and unsuspected by the person who caused the pain she endured—had been schooled into such a condition as she could not very likely have imagined possible a score of months since, before her misfortunes. . . Read More

Community Reviews

This narrative relates the life of the aristocratic-born Henry Esmond. As the 17th Century closes and the 18th dawns, Harry Esmond attends college, goes to jail and serves in the army. William Thackeray describes the demise of James II, reign of William and Mary and Queen Anne. Although he mentio...more

This is a rich, complex, but ultimately unsatisfying novel about a young man of principle making his way in the corrupt and luxurious world of the 1700's English aristocracy.

Henry Esmond narrates the story of his own life, and the thing that sinks the novel is that he's always just a little too...more

You know what? This book isn't all that great. Sorry, William Makepeace Thackeray.

The cover image is not for the one I have, but I couldn't find it. This is a Bantam Classic from 1961. I read the very nice introduction last night.

Read the preface last night. It's a letter from Henry's daughter which brings up some intriguing plot points sure to be covered later. The letter is...more

Henry Esmond is a shitty, bitter dude and his ideas about women suck. This book took me 2 months to read and it was mostly a waste of time. Maybe you'll like this book if you really love Jacobite history and repetitive character building and subplots, but it's not for me.

I loved Pendennis, but I...more

Published a decade before War & Peace, I can imagine that this historical novel could have been a model for Tolstoy's epic (maybe someone knows?). It's not quite as long but, although the battle scenes, focussed around Marlborough's campaigns and the War of the Spanish Succession, are fewer a...more

The History of Henry Esmond was widely considered the best historical novel of its day and often considered the best of Thackeray's novels as well; Trollope, who wrote a biography of his friend Thackeray, calls it his masterpiece. It's set just after the Glorious Revolution, during the reigns of...more

I found The History of Henry Esmond to be a very challenging and difficult read. Ultimately, it became a frustrating read, and ended with (apologies to T.S. Eliot) a profound whimper and no bang at all.

Perhaps it is because Thackeray's characters lack the presence of Dickens's creations, perhaps...more

I came to this book having already read and enjoyed both Vanity Fair and The History of Pendennis: His Fortunes & Misfortunes, His Friends & His Greatest Enemy by the same author and was therefore quite confident in my expectations. However, this was quite a different sort of novel, in th...more

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